CVIndependent

Sun08252019

Last updateTue, 18 Sep 2018 1pm

Coming Soon: AsiaSF Palm Springs, to the Former Hacienda Location

A San Francisco restaurant known for its “Cal-Asian” cuisine and dinner shows featuring transgender performers is opening a Palm Springs location in the space that was once the Hacienda Cantina and Beach Club, at 1555 S. Palm Canyon Drive.

While no formal announcement has yet been made, the owners of AsiaSF let the figurative cat out of the bag by promoting auditions for the Palm Springs location in four cities (Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Rancho Mirage—at the Desert Rose Playhouse—and San Francisco) on four consecutive nights in mid-July.

AsiaSF opened in 1988 in San Francisco’s SOMA neighborhood, founded by Larry Hashbarger and Skip Young.

“The world-famous restaurant, cabaret and nightclub is an iconic entertainment landmark that has inspired over 1 million people from all over the world with great food and entertainment,” says the AsiaSF website. “AsiaSF has been a visionary pioneer in supporting the transgender community through empowerment by creating a safe space and unique employment opportunities that showcase our beautiful transgender stars, the Ladies of AsiaSF, who not only entertain but also educate and enlighten people about the transgender experience and human diversity.”

We hear that more details about the Palm Springs location will come out shortly. Whatever those details are … it’s fantastic news that the Hacienda space will soon be alive once again. The Hacienda Cantina and Beach Club opened during the summer of 2014, but closed under a cloud of scandal in the fall of 2015, as the owner was indicted and charged in a bribery scheme involving then-Mayor Steve Pougnet. In 2016, Chris Pardo—the driving force behind the ARRIVE Palm Springs hotel—was linked to plans to build a hotel on the Hacienda property, but those plans fell through.

We’ll have more details as they develop. In the meantime, we recommend watching www.facebook.com/officialasiasf for updates.


New and Popping Up: Ni-Chome Ramen

If you’re a fan of ramen, you need to be keeping your eyes on the Wabi Sabi Japan Living Facebook page at www.facebook.com/WabiSabiJapanLiving. The owners have been taking over local restaurant spaces (like Peabody’s and Evzin Palm Springs) during times when they’re closed to offer a pop-up ramen restaurant that even has its own name: Ni-Chome Ramen.

Recent seatings have included a three-course meal plus sake and Japanese beer for the downright-reasonable price of $33. Who knows … maybe Ni-Chome Ramen will have its own home one day?

The next Ni-Chome pop-ups will take place at 11:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m., Sunday, July 28, at Evzin Palm Springs, 411 E. Palm Canyon Drive, in Palm Springs. Visit that aforementioned Facebook page or www.wabisabijapanliving.com for tickets and more details.


In Brief

Coming soon to the space next to Heirloom Craft Kitchen, at 49990 Jefferson St., in Indio: Tu Madres Cantina and Grill. It’s the latest venture by Andie Hubka, the chef/owner of Heirloom and her original restaurant, La Quinta’s Cork and Fork. A post on the Cork and Fork says: “Our new concept is fresh, modern chef-driven Mexican fare and an amazing bar with a crazy tequila list and craft beer selection. Vegans and gluten-free guests will find plenty of options, too. We love Baja Mexico and are excited to bring home a taste of the culture and cuisine there.” Watch tumadrescantina.com for updates, and expect a fall opening. … Coming soon to Palm Desert: Little Bar, a speakeasy-style bar and restaurant at 73560 Highway 111. Watch www.little-bar.com for further developments. … Coming soon to 117 La Plaza, in downtown Palm Springs: Pineapple Express. We know this because we saw the “Public Notice of Application to Sell Alcoholic Beverages” sign in the window of the former Delicatesse space—but that’s all we know for now. Watch this space. … New in the former Greek Islands location at 139 E. Andreas Road, in Palm Springs: The Greek at 13, offering cocktails plus Greek and Italian fare. Learn more at www.facebook.com/thegreekps. … Returning to the Ace Hotel and Swim Club, 701 E. Palm Canyon Drive, in Palm Springs: the eighth annual Craft Beer Weekend. Two-dozen-plus craft breweries will be on hand from noon to 3 p.m., Saturday and Sunday, Aug. 3 and 4, along with entertainment and all sorts of revelry. A one-day pass is $50; both days will cost you $85. Get tickets and a complete list of participating breweries at acehotel.com/craftbeer.

Published in Restaurant & Food News

Grand Central to Open Soon … Hopefully? … in Palm Springs’ La Plaza Center

More than a year ago, local foodies were all abuzz about the anticipated opening of Grand Central Palm Springs, a restaurant and event space in the historic La Plaza Center in downtown Palm Springs.

In early August 2016, Grand Central hosted a job fair; the restaurant’s Facebook page reported that 200 people had applied for jobs in person, with another 90 applications coming in online. Other posts teased menu items for the restaurant, which was going to feature American food, a coffee bar and cocktails. It seemed that Grand Central’s opening was imminent.

And then … nothing happened, at least publicly. More than 14 months went by with nary a peep on Grand Central’s fate.

Fearing Grand Central had been scrapped, I decided to try to find out what was going on. I sent a message via Grand Central’s Facebook page—and was relieved when Rita Capponi, a partner in the project, called me and assured me that Grand Central was still happening. In fact, she said it would likely open sometime in January, if not before.

“We are so close to the finish line,” she said.

So … what was the huge and apparently unexpected delay all about? Capponi said the owners greatly underestimated what it would take to get the building—built in 1936, and unoccupied for a decade—ready for business.

“We’ve been laying low, because bringing a 1936 building up to 2017 building code—well, it’s been an adventure,” she said with a weary laugh.

Capponi said what she hoped would be the “final inspections” would take place around early December. She also said she’s been buoyed by the support people have offered the Grand Central Team.

“People have been stopping by and saying, ‘We’re really rooting for you. We’re waiting for you,’” she said.

Keep your fingers crossed, and watch www.grandcentralpalmsprings.com for more information.


Agua Caliente Names Leanne Kamekona as the New Executive Chef

Agua Caliente Casino Resort Spa has named Leanne Kamekona as its new executive chef. She oversees all of the restaurants at the resort, located at 32250 Bob Hope Drive, in Rancho Mirage.

Kamekona, according to a news release, first became smitten with the food business while working in a family-owned grocery store in her native Hawaii. She went on to graduate from the University of Hawaii, and has thus far enjoyed a career in the food/resort world spanning more than two decades.

Since arriving at Agua Caliente, she’s revamped the menu at the Waters Café, adding items ranging from a classic chicken pot pie, to a lobster roll, to saimin, a Hawaiian noodle soup featuring Portuguese sausage and fishcake in a dashi broth.

“The Hawaiian way of life continues to infuse the menus I develop with unique culinary experiences, while incorporating in the flavors that are distinctive to our Southern California location in Rancho Mirage,” Kamekona said in the type of quote that could only be found in a press release.

For more information, visit www.hotwatercasino.com.


In Brief

Just in case you’ve been living under a rock and somehow missed all the fanfare: The Kimpton Rowan Palm Springs has finally opened its doors at 100 W. Tahquitz Canyon Way. That means its two restaurants—4 Saints, the much-anticipated rooftop space, and Juniper Table, offering Mediterranean-inspired fare—are open, too. Get all the details you need at kimptonhotels.com. … Also now open on the same block: The fancy-schmancy Starbucks Reserve. … Down in Rancho Mirage, The River shopping center, at 71800 Highway 111, has welcomed the new Coachella Winery. The wine bar offers both bottles and glasses of wine at a variety of price points, as well as food including pizzas, salads, appetizers, piadina (Italian flatbread sandwiches) and a variety of bar snacks and appetizers. You’ll find menus and more info at www.coachellawinery.com. … Coming soon to Indio: Heirloom Craft Kitchen, at 49990 Jefferson St. It’s a new place by Andie Hubka, the owner of the much-loved Cork and Fork in La Quinta, and it’ll offer “craft sandwiches,” “crafted salads” and entrées like buttermilk fried chicken and grilled wild salmon. Oh, and then there are the sides … including truffle tots. Wow! Watch heirloomcraftkitchen.com for updates. … Mark your calendars: The 11th annual Desert Woman’s Show is coming to the Agua Caliente Casino Resort Spa on Saturday and Sunday, Jan. 13 and 14. The show includes Taste of the Valley, which will feature food and drink from nearly two dozen area restaurants and vendors. Tickets are $15 in advance; head to www.desertwomansshow.com/taste-of-the-valley to get ’em and learn more.

Published in Restaurant & Food News

What’s that, you say? You love rosé? Well, if you live in the sunny Coachella Valley, you’re in luck!

While people in a large portion of the country are preparing for a frigid future—planning to spend part of their Labor Day weekend digging out the plastic bins that house their parkas and fleece underwear—here in the valley of eternal summer, we have another two months of scorching heat. While that thought is enough to bring grown men to tears, I choose to celebrate this fact with more rosé—yes, the little pink wine that was once the recipient of scornful glances, side-eye stares and snickers from fellow restaurant patrons is now having its proverbial day in the sun.

Considering all of this newfound fame, I started wondering whether people actually know what rosé is. This question was answered, in part, when I watched the recently released Vogue video interview with Drew Barrymore, self-proclaimed winemaker. If a “wine-expert” like Drew thinks that rosé is made by peeling the skins off the grapes early, then the answer is a resounding “no.” (Seriously, watch the video. It’s both horrifying and hilarious.) Given that it takes an average of 600 grapes to make one bottle of wine, the price of a bottle of Drew’s rosé with its peeled grapes would probably cost around $5,000. Instead, this delicious summertime wine is usually cheap and cheerful.

So why are some rosés more expensive than others? Why do they vary in color? What makes a pink wine sweet? Now that our desert markets and restaurants are offering so many different options, things can get a little confusing. Let me break it down for you.

Rosé can be made from any red grape, and while the process can differ slightly depending on the producer, the idea is the same: It is red wine that is taken away from its skins after mere hours of fermentation. Skin is what gives a wine its color; therefore, less skin equals less color. (OK, Drew, your comment was half right.) If these rosés were left in the tank, they would soon become red wines—big, bold, slap-you-silly, macho reds. In fact, in an attempt to give you a bigger, punch-you-in-the-face red wine, some winemakers will “bleed” off some juice from the fermentation tank in the first few hours to increase the ratio of skin to juice for a more concentrated final outcome for the reds—with rosé the wonderful byproduct. Waste not, want not … am I right?!

Because it can be made using any red grape you’d like, you’ll see rosés spanning the color wheel: from pale salmon-colored options, probably made from grenache or pinot noir, to cranberry and pomegranate colors, stemming from malbec or syrah. However, don’t be too quick to judge a bottle by its color: The wine’s hue isn’t going to have any bearing on the sweetness, acidity or alcohol content. Nowadays, most any bottle of rosé you pick up will be a dry, delicious, delight. That said, if you’re worried about buying the “wrong” rosé, my only advice is to steer clear of the word “blush” or any pink wine that comes in a box or 5-gallon jug. (Although that stereotype is changing now, too.)

If you’re looking to drop a pretty penny on a fancy-pants bottle, there are several regions, like Bandol and Tavel in the south of France, where rosé is taken very seriously and produced with the same amount of care and passion as some top-dollar reds and whites. They’re definitely worth a splurge every now and then.

So what about white zin—that sweet beverage reserved for prom-night motel rooms and the wine-confused can’t possibly be the same thing as my delicious bottle of Domaine Tempier, right? Well, yes and no. Just to be clear: white zinfandel isn’t a grape. It, too, is a pink wine made from red zinfandel grapes, but stylistically and historically meant to be sweet. It was really just an “oops” moment at Sutter Home in the ’70s that turned into one of the most profitable accidents the winemaking industry has ever seen.

Still not sure this pink drink is your thing? Do yourself a favor, and grab a seat at one of the valley’s wine bars, and give one a swirl. A few hot spots like Dead or Alive in Palm Springs, Cork and Fork in La Quinta, and Piero’s PizzaVino in Palm Desert offer a handful of different options by the glass from regions like Washington, Austria, Provence, Tuscana and Santa Barbara, just to name a few.  

And if you need one more reason to keep drinking this sunshine in a bottle just remember: It’s socially acceptable to drink rosé for breakfast.

Katie Finn is a certified sommelier and certified specialist of wine with more than 15 years in the wine industry. She is a member of the Society of Wine Educators and is currently studying with the Wine and Spirit Education Trust. When she's not hitting the books, you can find her hosting private wine tastings and exploring the desert with her husband and two children. She can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Published in Wine

Andie Hubka was five years into running a successful gourmet cooking school when she had an idea: What if she offered a dinner of seasonally driven, creative dishes once a week? Would people come?

“I just started getting the itch to do a restaurant night,” said Hubka, co-owner of the new restaurant Cork and Fork in La Quinta. “So we put together an underground supper club, for lack of a better word, and became really well known for that, and before we knew it, we were turning people away, because we had more people coming than we could seat on any given night.”

With the dinner nights an obvious hit, Hubka saw a craving for interesting, wine-paired dishes. She decided it was time to leave the quiet classroom of her cooking school and enter the fast-paced world of restaurant ownership, which happened officially when Cork and Fork opened to the public on Wednesday, Jan. 16.

“We’re packed every night. We just can’t believe it,” says Hubka. “We knew we were going to be busy, because we had an existing clientele, but the big surprise has been the people from out of town and people we’ve never seen before, who are super-excited about it. We’re sold out and actually oversold every night.”

Cork and Fork is not that big of a place—it seats about 50 people—but packing the house night after night is quite a feat for any new restaurant. But it helps, says Hubka, that there are precious few places in the area that serve the type of cuisine her team creates.

“I come from Los Angeles, where you have lots of options and lots to choose from, but out here in the desert, it’s pretty devoid of interesting food,” said Hubka. “There are a lot of steakhouses and a lot of meat-and-potato places, but there isn’t a lot of ethnic or creative cuisine.”

Not that Hubka is beating her guests over the head with unapproachably complex dishes. Her tactic is to take things people recognize and give them a twist. Add to that a well-trained staff who can suggest appropriate wine-pairings, and you have what is turning out to be a concept people get excited about.

The menu is broken down into snacks, salads, pizzas and favorites that are holdovers from the restaurant’s former life as an underground supper club. Baby-back ribs, Thai shrimp cakes, tamales, mac-and-cheese and a good amount of salads and other dishes take diners on a winding road without delving into anything too strange or unknown.

“You’ll notice there really isn’t a common denominator,” says Hubka. “The only theme is that everything has to be really good.”

The most popular items thus far have been dates stuffed with Point Reyes blue cheese and topped with toasted almonds and chive-infused oil. Guests have also been crazy about the wood-fired “Coachella” pizza—think dates, applewood bacon, goat cheese and pickled onions—and the french fries made with local sweet potatoes.

“We make food that people recognize, but that are all small plates, all shareable,” says Hubka. “The focus is on wine and food pairing, trying a lot of different foods with wines. We call it a ‘unique wine and food experience.’”

The wine list is also a bit different than what many local diners may be used to, since there are few California wines. Instead, the emphasis is on wines from other renowned wine-producing regions such as South Africa, Oregon and others.

“I still run the cooking school, and the teacher in me wants to expose people to different things,” says Hubka. “We’re constantly having to explain our wine to people, but we’re excited to do it because we want people to experience it.”

Hubka says the restaurant is currently open for dinner Wednesday through Sunday. Happy hour, which includes specials on drinks and bar snacks, happens all night on Wednesday and Sunday and from 4 to 6 p.m., Thursday through Saturday.

Cork and Fork is located at 47875 Caleo Bay Drive, Suite A106, in La Quinta. Call 777-7555, or visit corkandforkwinebar.com for reservations or more information.

Published in Restaurant & Food News